I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.
Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Bishop. Reprinted from Poems with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Saw you walking barefoot taking a long look at the new moon's eyelid later spread sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair asleep but not oblivious of the unslept unsleeping elsewhere Tonight I think no poetry will serve Syntax of rendition: verb pilots the plane adverb modifies action verb force-feeds noun submerges the subject noun is choking verb disgraced goes on doing now diagram the sentence 2007
From Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
This poem is in the public domain.
It’s the best part of the day, morning light sliding
down rooftops, treetops, the birds pulling themselves
up out of whatever stupor darkened their wings,
night still in their throats.
I never wanted to die. Even when those I loved
died around me, away from me, beyond me.
My life was never in question, if for no other reason
than I wanted to wake up and see what happened next.
And I continue to want to open like that, like the flowers
who lift their heavy heads as the hills outside the window
flare gold for a moment before they turn
on their sides and bare their creased backs.
Even the cut flowers in a jar of water lift
their soon to be dead heads and open
their eyes, even they want a few more sips,
to dwell here, in paradise, a few days longer.
Copyright © 2021 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.